Working towards peace and sustainability


BASIC BACKGROUND:  As part of the agreement this past summer to lift the debt ceiling, Congress and the Obama administration agreed to a seriously flawed deficit reduction process. They established a Super Committee (formally, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction), and charged this small group with coming up with a plan to cut at least $1.5 trillion out of the projected deficit over the next decade.

There are 12 committee members, three Democrats and three Republicans from each house of Congress. They are supposed to come up with a plan that at least seven of the twelve can agree to by Nov. 23. If such a plan is agreed to, this will then be sent to Congress for straight up or down votes (no amendments) in both houses. If either the committee cannot come to agreement, or if their proposal is not supported by both houses, then an automatic cut of $1.2 trillion, half from the military and half from non-military spending will go into effect. (More on the committee at www.deficitreduction.gov)

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?  There are several serious flaws in the process:

1)  The economy is in the midst of a deep economic downturn, with real unemployment and underemployment close to 20%. Cuts in government spending now, putting more people out of work, would seriously hurt the chances for economic recovery, prolonging the misery so many are now living through.

2)  Due to repeated tax cuts, benefiting primarily the most well to do and large corporations, we have what economists call a “structural deficit,” meaning that even at full employment, we fail to collect sufficient taxes to cover our expenses.

3)  While there is some wasteful spending, primarily in the area of wars and bloated military budgets, as well as subsidies for dirty energy, most of our government’s programs serve the interests of the vast majority of citizens. Social insurance programs, environmental and consumer protection, education, transportation, nutrition, housing and more should not be on the chopping block.

4)  Balancing the budget, at full employment, should be a priority, but this entails increasing revenues. It can be easily done by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, eliminating tax loopholes benefiting corporations, treating unearned income as income, taxing capital gains at the rate that wages or salaries are taxed, and/or putting a tax on financial transactions. Unfortunately, the six GOP members of the Super Committee have all signed a pledge not to support any tax increases, period.

5)  This means that the committee, should it agree on anything, will be coming back with a recommendation that relies entirely, or almost entirely, on cuts, most of these to essential programs and services. The GOP is reportedly looking for $2.2 trillion in cuts, significantly more than is mandated, much of this to essential programs. Those who are now hurting—virtually all of us, working people, the elderly, students, the unemployed—all will be hurting more if these draconian cuts are passed.

5)  It’s not just the Republicans who are putting social insurance and other essential programs on the chopping block. According to our friends at NOW,  “Not to be seen as tax-and-spenders, the Democratic members are reportedly proposing a whopping $3 trillion spending cut. The Democrats' plan would cut the Social Security COLA, make deep Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and not raise close to enough revenues to even have a balance between budget cuts and new revenues.

“Super committee members are reportedly ready to shrink your Social Security retirement and disability benefits by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and are proposing to carve a big chunk out of Medicare, placing a higher burden on seniors to pay for increasing health care cuts. A Medicare cut would also be imposed on health care providers, meaning that fewer doctors would want to care for seniors.”


Over the past three decades, almost all the growth in real income has gone to the most wealthy among us. Wealth and power are both now more concentrated in the hands of a few than at any time since the Gilded Age. It is this trend, brought into sharp relief by the financial collapse, that has spurred the emergence of the Occupy Movement. 

There are many threads that tie together the broad dissatisfaction so many are feeling. It is not just that the big banks were deemed “too big to fail” while working people—the little guys—were foreclosed upon. It’s not just that not a single top bank, brokerage or insurance executive has been convicted of anything, despite their obvious deception and manipulation, all of which fueled the bubble and the crash. It’s not just that tens of millions are underwater, deeply in debt due to untenable mortgages and home equity loans. Nor is it simply that tens of millions more are buried under a mountain of student loan debt even decades after finishing school.

Besides all of this, many millions of us are aware that the political system is a stacked deck. Who gets nominated and who gets elected is largely determined by money. With the well heeled doing most of the giving, they’re getting most of the access. So, when Congress is preparing to make major cuts that will affect all of us who make up the 99%, it is outrageous, albeit not shocking, that the 1% end up with far more input than the rest of us put together do.

(It is no surprise that the Super Committee is listening more to powerful corporate leaders than they are to us. Forbes magazine published an interesting piece, “Who's Buttering Up Deficit Super Committee Members With Donations” showing just how much this select group of legislators has been raking in. See: http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2011/08/16/how-much-and-from-who-have-deficit-super-committee-members-received-donations/ )


It doesn’t have to be this way, but for it to change, we all need to make some noise. We might not all need to physically “occupy” Congressional offices, but it sure is a help when we show up there regularly, and in significant numbers. That’s why Peaceworks and our Peace Coalition allies have been turning out daily, for nearly four weeks now, for noon-hour “Deliver a Message” meetings with the staffs of Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt.

We’ve been urging our senators to call on their Super Committee colleagues to pursue a much different, more progressive, agenda that includes significant additional taxation levied on those who can afford it, ending the wars and making deep cuts in other wasteful military spending, cutting subsidies to polluters, and keeping their hands off our needed programs.

WE NEED YOU TO JOIN US:  Now, as the Super Committee moves into the home stretch, it’s imperative that we crank up the volume. We need many more people to join us for the 45 minutes it takes (noon to 12:45 p.m.) to make these daily visits. It would really help for the numbers to increase daily, right up until Nov. 22.

It would be great if you could contact us in advance at 573-875-0539 or mail@midmopeaceworks.org to let us know you’re coming, but it’s also fine to just show up any weekday you can between 12 and 12:05 at the Wabash Bus Station at 10th and Ash in downtown Columbia. (Note: Friday, Nov. 11 is a federal holiday, so the offices will be closed.)

IF YOU CAN’T ATTEND IN PERSON:  We urge everyone to communicate with our elected officials. You will find addresses, phone numbers and web links for both Missouri U.S. senators, and all three House members who represent mid-Missouri at http://blog.midmopeaceworks.org/p/resources.html  Please call and write to them today.

CONTACT THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS DIRECTLY: None of the 12 Super Committee members are from Missouri, but given their central role in making decisions that impact everyone in this country, it’s a good idea for all of us to be calling and writing them too.

Super Committee Members and Contact Links for Senators:

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate co-chair  http://murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=ContactMe
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5), House co-chair
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)  www.baucus.senate.gov/contact/emailForm.cfm?subj=issue
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)  www.kerry.senate.gov/contact/
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)  www.kyl.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)  http://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact?p=contact-form
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)  www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-31)
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-4)
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC-6)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-6)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8)

House members do not take e-comments from people living outside their districts. They can, however, be called by phone and all their numbers are available at http://house.gov/representatives/

BECOME A MESSAGE AMPLIFIER: Share this message with friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues, co-parishioners, fellow students, friends on Facebook, etc. Urge everyone you know to recognize our common interest in stopping this awful assault on everything that our government does that’s good.

We urge you to remind folks that we’re talking about clean water and safe food, national parks, school lunches, housing for the needy, social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare for all of us, and so much more.

Some want to shrink government so small they can “drown it in a bathtub.” Most of us in the 99% recognize that this serves powerful corporations, and harms the rest of us. Time to say “No Way!” and put Congress on notice that they can vote to gut all these programs only at their own peril. If they want to be reelected, they need to start listening to the people who elected them, not just their wealthy contributors.